RALEIGH — Republican Senate lawmakers have introduced a bill that would change the 100-person capacity limit at outdoor high school sports venues.

Senate Bill 116 would change the 100-person limit to 40% of an outdoor facility’s capacity.

Sens. Todd Johnson, R-Union; Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell; and Danny Britt, R-Robeson; introduced the measure.

Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive orders, no more than 100 fans may watch high school athletes compete at large outdoor venues, such as football fields. As a result of the restriction, close family of high school athletes can’t watch the students compete, a news release says.

Outdoor facilities like football fields and stands are often large enough to accommodate more people and still allow for ample social distancing. For example, Johnson pointed to Cuthbertson High School in Union County. Its football stands can hold 2,976 people, yet Cooper’s restriction only allows for 100 people, or 3% capacity, the release says.

The bill would change the 100-person limit to 40% of an outdoor facility’s capacity.

“Many parents have reached out to my office with the legitimate complaint that they can’t watch their children compete in outdoor sports even though many facilities can hold much more than 100 people and still abide by social distancing guidelines,” Johnson said. “The current 100-person limit is unreasonable and ignores the reality that many outdoor high school sports facilities are very large and can accommodate many more socially distanced fans.”

Legislators on Feb. 18, also sent Cooper a letter asking that he amend his latest executive order to accomplish the same goal as S.B. 116. Amending the executive order would be a much quicker way to resolve the problem, but legislators will advance their bill if necessary, the release says.

Cooper said in a news conference that state health officials are looking at the issue, and that he planned to issue a new executive order this week.

Cooper also addressed Senate Bill 37, which would reopen schools to in-person learning from students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The General Assembly passed the bill Feb. 17. Cooper said he has concerns about the measure. He asked that social-distancing guidelines be stricter, and that any move ensures local emergency departments won’t be negatively affected by students returning to class.

Cooper had 10 days to sign, veto, or do nothing with school reopening bill.

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